Including new sidewalks as part of the city of Portage’s West Carroll Street improvement project would have numerous costs and no benefits, property owners told the Portage Common Council on Thursday.
In a public hearing on the project, several people, including a departing Common Council member, urged council members to hear and heed their objections.
“I grew up in this neighborhood. I live in this neighborhood now,” council member Bill Kutzke said from the podium set aside for speakers at a public hearing.
Kutzke — in his last full council meeting before he relinquishes his District 6 seat to Eric Shimpach on Tuesday — is not one of the property owners proposed to be assessed for the sidewalks, driveway aprons and/or sanitary sewer laterals that are proposed to be part of the reconstruction of West Carroll Street from Sanborn Street to the end of Carroll Street, and on Summit Street between Carroll and River streets.
However, Kutzke said those who are being assessed neither need nor can afford the sidewalks, especially in places where the sidewalks haven’t been located before.
“You’re going to end up with sidewalks running right by somebody’s window,” he said.
The sidewalks would be part of this year’s biggest street improvement project, scheduled to start in May and be completed in September.
Ann Barrett, who lives in a 110-year-old brick house in the 900 block of West Carroll Street, said she doesn’t oppose, in principle, the city’s policy of working toward a connected system of sidewalks.
But the new sidewalk proposed as part of the West Carroll Street project would not only run very close to her house, she said, it would also result in the loss of trees she used to climb as a child, and increased risks of flooding, due in part to the loosening of soil during the construction process and a decrease in permeable surface area capable of absorbing excess water.
“Many other homes along West Carroll Street, too, will experience decreased safety and security with the installation of these proposed sidewalks,” Barrett wrote in a prepared statement, copies of which were distributed to the council.
Wally Kienast, who also lives in the 900 block of West Carroll Street, said, “I like the way my yard is set up now, and I just don’t need a sidewalk.”
Another resident asked whether the sidewalk proposal can be modified, so that his triangle-shaped lot would not need to have sidewalk on all sides.
Public Works Director Aaron Jahncke said specific individual issues, such as these, can be addressed in private later with city officials.
Kutzke noted that the area where the sidewalks are proposed is an older neighborhood, with houses that aren’t set back as far on the lots as they are in newer residential areas.
Also, the existence of sidewalks on the south side of the street satisfies the city’s concerns regarding pedestrian safety, Kutzke said.
And, at an average total assessment (for sidewalks and other improvements) of $2,832, many of the older residents would face a difficult financial burden, he said.
The Common Council will decide April 25 on a resolution to go ahead with the assessments as proposed.